FIL’s US representative David Unger (left) enjoys a children’ book event at FIL 2012.
By Peggy Barber
Author Jonathan Franzen, an opening speaker at the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara (FIL) held November 24–December 2 in Guadalajara, Mexico, captured the event’s mainstream impact when he exclaimed, “How marvelous that the cultural calendar of Guadalajara is determined by books.”
The 2012 fair marked the 13th year of the ALA-FIL partnership. The event gave the 108 US librarians who attended the opportunity to select books and other media for the ever-growing number of Spanish-speaking people they serve. It also provided attendees a priceless cultural experience.
Established 26 years ago by the University of Guadalajara, FIL is a huge nine-day-long event. Attendance this year reached 701,857. In addition to librarians, publishers from 44 countries, and other professionals from the book world, the fair also attracted thousands of enthusiastic families and busloads of tourists.
Each year, FIL honors a guest country. Chile was celebrated with a huge exhibit at the fair’s entrance, as well as special music, theater, dance, and film programs and performances.
Roberto Delgadillo, a member-at-large of ALA Council and incoming president of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials provided a strong and succinct summary of FIL’s value. “It’s about people, not just books,” Delgadillo said. “The biggest benefit is that you can get so much more than just buying books from a catalog. You can experience different cultures. You can see how our world is changing.”
John Hunter of Woodburn (Oreg.) Public Library attended for the third time. His community has a population of 24,000, of which 60% are Latino. “Attending FIL has made all the difference to our collection,” he said. Hunter has become a self-appointed ambassador for FIL by sharing information with other libraries, hosting an open house at his library to premiere new materials, and making presentations to the Woodburn library board.
Many ALA members who attended FIL 2012 are regulars who have coalesced into an informal “FIL club,” according to frequent FIL-goer Elissa Miller of the District of Columbia Public Library. She said she stays in touch year-round with colleagues from San Antonio, Denver, and Virginia that she met at FIL. Miller praised the scope of the materials and networking opportunities available at the book fair, as well as the fest’s accessibility to the public. “Even the first visit is amazing and you don’t have to speak Spanish,” she said.
The ALA-FIL partnership has produced generous incentives and benefits over the years for US librarian participants. In 2012, FIL provided free hotel accommodations and fair admission, and $100 toward airfare for the first 100 registrants. Additional hospitality came in the form of a gala vendor-sponsored dinner, a cocktail brunch, and the Salon de Novedades—an area in the exhibit hall where new Spanish-language publications are displayed as part of a selection of 3,000 books chosen by ALA members and organized according to Dewey Decimal Classification. ALA provided an additional $100 toward airfare, a FIL guide, and a FIL orientation that was offered both as a pre-fair webinar and an on-site presentation.
Adan Griego of Stanford (Calif.) University Libraries assisted with orientations, presenting useful information about working with available distributors, shipping book selections back to the US, and events. Delin Guerra, program officer for ALA’s International Relations Office, staffed the Association’s booth along with graduates of the University of Guadalajara.
“The country the US should be paying more attention to is Mexico,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan during her Guadalajara presentation. “FIL is a rich opportunity to learn more about reading, libraries, and [the] productive relationship librarians and educators have with publishers and vendors in this part of the world. I have never seen a trade show so lively, attractive, and full of resources. I encourage librarians to come. It is a wonderful professional experience.”
PEGGY BARBER is former associate executive director for communication for the ALA. She currently operates Library Communication Strategies, Inc.
American Libraries, Fri, 12/21/2012 - 17:21